A pair of Toronto natives are hoping to bring their city’s enthusiasm for board games to Little Italy/University Village by opening up a dessert cafe on Taylor Street. Relo’s Board Game and Dessert Cafe is taking over the Three Aces spot at 1320 W. Taylor Street with a targeted April opening. The project has a Kickstarter to help build the game library with mainstream titles like Monopoly and Scrabble, plus other games like Settlers of Catan and Gloomhaven.
The cafe will serve coffee, cakes, crepes, waffles, and ice cream said owners Lou Guoc and Regen Chan. The two moved from Toronto a few months ago to focus on opening the cafe, but they’ve held on to the idea for years. Chan sees the cafe as an alternative to going to the movies, a fun way to hang out with friends. They hope to capitalize on students from the nearby University of Illinois at Chicago. The board game community is bigger in Toronto, Chan said, and he sees Relo’s filling a niche in Chicago.
“We’re looking to create a balance between popular Monopoly and Scrabble family games and games that are a bit more time intensive,” Guoc said.
Chan and Guoc want to create an inviting space where customers can learn to play games and hardcore gamers and show their passion for their hobby. Unlike Three Aces, Relo won’t serve alcohol. They’ll serve booze-less specialty drinks like lemonade and iced tea, Guoc said. This is their first restaurant. Chan worked as an insurance underwriter. He’s also worked as a barista at a Toronto-area Starbucks and that’s where his interest in coffee has grown. They’re going to pour Intelligentsia said Guoc, who worked in marketing helping to build websites and use social media.
They hope to stock 400 to 500 games and they’ve installed bookshelves to display them. The Kickstarter will pay for that game library — and expansion packs — with a $3,000 goal. It expires on March 31. Three Aces closed in February 2017 after seven years. Chan and Guoc spruced up the space with new finishes for the floor and paint on the bar. They’ll focus on dining in the front bar space, while the backroom is focused on gaming.
The game cafe hopes to attract students, workers from the nearby Illinois Medical District, and residents living in the neighboring West Loop. The True West Loop Facebook group mentioned the cafe Monday morning. Three Aces closed more than two years ago. Chef Matt Troost has brought many of his favorites, including those fresh-cut fries, to River North. He opened Good Measure in August.
Navigating the world of licensing in Chicago is daunting even to veteran restaurant owners. Chan and Guoc are going their best. They’re waiting on pursuing a patio license, and hope to open as a BYO. Stay tuned for updates.